Visit Mont-Saint-Michel (Normandy, France)
Mont Saint Michel is one of the most photographed, and easily recognised, landmarks in France. It is in Normandy close to the border with Brittany.
For a long time ownership of Mont Saint Michel alternated between Normandy and Brittany. Because it lies at the mouth of the river that separates the two departments, and the river kept silting up and changing direction, Mont Saint Michel also moved between the two departments.
Brittany still make the (not unreasonable) claim that since the island was theirs originally, it is hardly their fault if the river has moved, so it should still be theirs. Ever in danger of becoming part of the mainland, due to silting in the river, the French government has recently agreed to a large scale 'de-silting' programme that will ensure Mont Saint Michel remains an island.
Just to deal with one common misunderstanding - Mont Saint Michel is currently never inaccessible due to high tides.
Mont Saint Michel is now one of the leading tourist destinations in France, with 3 million visitors each year. An interesting fact: only one in three of these visitors actually make it as far as going in to the Abbey that is on top of the Mount.
The sight of Mont St Michel from across the water is really amazing but once I got there I must admit to a tinge of disappointment. I was expecting a kind of Carcassone on an island but in fact the Abbey takes up most of the island and the short path to the abbey is full of attractive buildings but these in turn are full of tourist rubbish and absolutely heaving with people.
It really is not worth going unless you are going to enter the abbey (cost 8 euros 50). The Abbey is superb, it is vast and some of the rooms such as the ‘Great pillared crypt’ are fantastic. The cloister too is very beautiful. The views from the top are splendid too.
The abbey which is gothic in style is known as 'La Merveille' or 'the Marvel‘. It was built over the course of many years, from the 11th to the 16th centuries.
Some of the buildings around the Abbey are reserved for the Monastic Brotherhood of Jerusalem who ensure that prayers are continually being said in the abbey.
For a spell of its history Mont St Michel was a prison but by 1836 a campaign was launched to restore it as a national treasure. Victor Hugo was one of the campaigners. The prison was closed in 1863 and Mont St Michel was declared a national monument in 1874.
Mont Saint Michel is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See also Saint Michael's Mount, Cornwall for the Cornish counterpart to the island just off the coast from Marazion (south-west England).
Photos of Mont-Saint-Michel
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Address: Mont-Saint-Michel, Pontorson, Avranches, Manche, Normandy, 50170 || GPS: latitude 48.635, longitude -1.51
Map of Mont-Saint-Michel & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Mont-Saint-Michel, France
- Baie du Mont Saint-Michel - grand site of france
- Mont-Saint-Michel (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Ducey - village d'etape (17km)
- Parc du château de Bonnefontaine - remarkable garden (19km)
- Jardin du château de La Ballue - remarkable garden (21km)
- Granville - recommended detour (23km)
- Parc zoologique de Champrepus - zoo or wildlife park (26km)
- Pointe du Grouin - site of natural beauty (26km)
- Saint-Brice-en-Cogles - village d'etape (27km)
- Parc floral de Haute-Bretagne - remarkable garden (31km)
The French version of this page is at Mont-Saint-Michel (Francais)